During the Yud-Tes Kislev farbrengen, 5747, the Rebbe Shlita
recalled and discussed an interesting age-old custom which has gone out of
style in modern times. It used to be, when mothers gave birth at home, that
verses and holy names that afford protection to mother and child were placed in
the mother's room before she gave birth. Traditionally, the newborn infant was
also enveloped and surrounded from birth with words and objects of holiness.
All this is not done in modern hospitals and should be reinstated. Do not wait
for the mother and child to come home; start at the hospital!
It should be noted that in the case of a hospital delivery room this practice
may be subject to careful interpretation of Halachah and when in doubt you
should consult an authoritative Rav/Moreh Hora'ah.
Blessings and Protection for the Blessed Event
There is an ancient Jewish custom* which has been practiced for centuries to
festoon the neonatal home with pieces of parchment or paper on which are
inscribed holy verses, angelic names and the psalm, "Shir Hama'alos -- A
Song of Ascents...My help will come from the L-rd" (Tehillim 121). In some
communities the custom takes the form of an amulet worn by the mother. "An
accepted Jewish custom takes the force of Torah" (see Tosefos, Menachos
20b), and the different traditional versions of this practice will all bestow a
benevolent glow of protection and blessing on the postpartum mother and the
newborn infant. When these verses are hung up prior to the labor and birth,
they will certainly invoke the Heavenly blessing so that the labor and birth
shall be easy and without complications, and after wards they extend their
blessings for a good and long life.
Regarding the newborn baby there is an additional aspect to keep in mind. It
is very important that as soon as a Jewish child is born he/she should be
enveloped in an atmosphere of holiness. It is known that what a one-day-old
baby sees and hears will have an influence on the child even many years later.
Surround the child with objects of holiness and it will help add blessing and
success to the life of the child so that the parents will merit to raise the
child "to Torah, to the marriage canopy and to good deeds."
Bring Back the Good Old Traditions
I would like to propose that special attention should be given to this
subject in order to remedy the state of nonobservance of this custom in present
In past generations mothers gave birth at home with the assistance of a
midwife. Under those circumstances they certainly took meticulous care that
they should be properly surrounded from the time of labor with the appropriate
words and verses of holiness.
In our times, when for medical reasons women give birth in hospitals, they
have not given enough attention to this important custom. Only after the mother
and child return home from the hospital are the "Shir Hama'alos" hung
up in and around the appropriate rooms of the house.
And yet, it is quite obvious that it is even more important that the
appropriate items which afford protection should be present at the time of
birth in the hospital.**
Shir Hama'alos in the Hospital
Therefore, it is important to bring to the attention of Jewish people
everywhere that even when the birthing mother and infant are in the hospital,
one should endeavor to hang up a "Shir Hama'alos" in the room of the
mother and the child, and if possible to place one on the cradle of the baby,
similar to the custom which is practiced in their home. For these virtuous acts
are even more important when they are closer to the birth.
Certainly, with a bit of encouragement you will also be able to convince the
hospital authorities of the benefits of this practice and they will happily
agree to permit it.
Medical wisdom acknowledges that the good health and successful care of a
patient depends to a great extent on his/her spiritual-mental condition. It is
therefore vital to remove any trace of worry or insecurity from a patient to
ensure that he/she will have complete mental and spiritual calm, the optimum
state of mind and a pleasant attitude.
This is especially true in obstetrics when the state of mind of the mother
is of extreme importance and any shadow of fear must be removed. The birthing
mother's attitude must be completely calm and relaxed.
A Blessing for Doctor and Patient
When you explain to the doctor and the administration of the hospital that
the "Shir Hama'alos" which hangs in the room will quell all fear,
induce total calm and inspire an optimistic attitude in the mother, who truly
believes in the power of these holy words, there will certainly be no
opposition on their part, and they will happily agree to put up these papers to
satisfy the birthing mother so that she will be calm, complacent and relaxed.
In the long run the doctors will also benefit from this practice. A good
doctor, who is also honest and realistic, is basically concerned with the
well-being of the patient. If any complication or deterioration should G-d
forbid arise in the condition of the patient it will cause the caring doctor to
be upset and disturbed. So, the conscientious doctor seeks to put the patient
at ease physically, mentally and spiritually. Then the doctor will also be more
relaxed and calm and will be able to administer his expert medical care in the
best possible manner.
Therefore, when the verses of "Shir Hama'alos" will be hung up in
her room, the mother will be at ease and the attending physician will also be
at ease and the resulting medical care will be of a much greater quality.
Spread the Word -- Blessings for All
Consequently, it will be proper and commendable to publicize this custom
wherever Jews live, so that the verses of "Shir Hama'alos" may be put
up in the mother's room and in the baby's nursery to afford a measure of
protection; it would be most appropriate and propitious to put up these verses
in the mother's room as soon as she arrives at the hospital, when she goes in
to give birth and after the birth. Certainly, all this will be accomplished
with appropriate approval, gladly granted by the medical staff and hospital
A practice which will be so beneficial should be done not only in major
cities where there are many Jewish women giving birth, but also in small towns
where there may be only a few Jewish mothers.
More Children -- Better Children, Bring Moshiach
May it be the will of G-d that by bringing more children into the world, a
quantitative increase, and also by improving the spiritual quality of giving birth,
by increasing the heavenly protection and blessing, this will bring to the
coming of the "Son of Dovid." As our sages tell us:
The son of Dovid [Moshiach] will not come before all the souls in Guf [the
spiritual region inhabited by the souls of the not-yet-born] will have been
disposed of [will have been born into the world]. (Yevamos 62a)
This is also alluded at in this week's Torah portion (Vayeishev), where we
read of the birth of Peretz, the ancestor of King Moshiach. The name Peretz
["You have asserted yourself with such pushiness!"] symbolizes
fecundity -- bringing many children into the world. It also symbolizes the one
who will "break" out of the golus: "The breaker is come up
before them" (Michah 2:13). So too, may we go very soon to greet our righteous
Moshiach at the future redemption, with our youth and elders, sons and
daughters in a wondrous way, and then the young ones will "recognize G-d
first," just as in the days when we were redeemed from Egypt. Speedily and
truly in our days.
Note: The sources of this custom are shrouded in antiquity and
references may be found in the following works: Rozeil Hamalach,
Tishbie, Eidus L'Yisroel, Kesser Shem Tov (Gagin), Segulos Yisroel, etc.
** Note: See Talmud Berachos 54b: "Three
persons require guarding (against evil spirits: Rashi) ...A sick
person, a birthing mother...." In the case of a hospital delivery room a
Rav/Moreh Horaah should be consulted whether the text must be "double
Reprinted from Sichos in English